Katharine “Katie” Mitzner
New FEW Member
Currently, I am the Public Information Specialist (PIO) for Florida’s Turnpike representing West and Central Florida. As a consultant for WSP USA, an engineering professional services firms, I manage public involvement efforts, communication and media relations for Florida Turnpike projects currently in PD&E (Project Development & Environment) and design phases, in Tampa and Orlando.
My favorite parts of my career have been meeting a diverse group of people along the way and learning how different industries and agencies work from the inside out and the role that public relations plays in their goals. I love to meet people and learn from their expertise. Certainly during my time in news I enjoyed having a pulse on my community and being at the forefront of what was happening. I still enjoy that today, keeping tabs on what is going on in the world around me and looking at the bigger picture and how it can impact and benefit my current work and life.
I was born in Lansing, Michigan and raised in Mason, Michigan, a small farming town, county seat of about 8,000 people at the time. I grew up on a farm and got my first paid job at the age of nine, bottle-feeding calves at the next door dairy farm for $5 a week. My mom was a college professor and my dad a lawyer. It was just me and my younger brother (who is a now a Lt. Commander in the US Navy). Growing up in a small town is something I think back to on a regular basis and it certainly shaped me. I believe in personal relationships and connections and accountability. Where I grew up, everyone knew one another, you couldn’t be anonymous or just a number. I find comfort in that and strive in both my personal and professional life to make those connections with others and to teach my kids the value of personal connections with others, having good friends and being a good friend.
I’m a single mom to two kids, Jocelyn, 10 and Luc 9. We live in East Orange County with our three dogs, two cats and three fish. We enjoy hosting friends at our house, having pool parties or any type of party, road trips in my minivan, travelling with friends, watching college football (especially the UCF Knights). Both of my kids play flag football so that keeps us busy during season.
Accomplishments and proud moments
My greatest accomplishment personally is becoming a mom and making decisions most recently that put our happiness first. Professionally one of my proudest moments was a special report I did as a news reporter back in 1999 on the dangers of recalled children’s products still on store shelves. I ended up connecting with a family whose child had died in a recalled playpen and had launched an organization called Kids In Danger. I worked with them to tell their story and together, with the help of then Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm and our coverage, we passed a law in Michigan (and then in Arkansas) that banned stores from selling such products. This was before social media and was an example of the power of real people and the news media working together to enact change. I still keep in touch with that family today and to see where their efforts have led to in 20 years is inspiring and I feel lucky to have been a part of their movement.
I’m a big believer that everything in my professional life has happened for a reason and was meant to be. There are people who stand out because they had an incredible impact on the direction that my career took. The underlying thread is the leaders and managers I worked with who gave me the space to branch out, learn from accomplishments and mistakes and trusted me in my decisions. But, most recently I have to say that the strong women who I’ve had the honor of surrounding myself with are the wind beneath my wings. I’m continually motivated by them, inspired and in awe.
Volunteer causes and issues
For now my volunteering is focused on my kids and I serve as their school’s PTA President. In the past I spent years working with the Muscular Dystrophy Association, and their annual Labor Day Telethon as an on-air host and segment reporter.
Today, because of my kids, I am moved by issues specifically related to the deaf and hard of hearing. My daughter Jocelyn was born deaf and has worn hearing aids since she was 4 months old. I helped launch the Florida Chapter of Hands and Voices, a non-profit organization to provide support to families of children who are deaf or hard of hearing. I also shared my story as a mom of a deaf child for other organizations. It’s a cause that certainly hits close to home. I continue to do what I can to raise awareness for deafness, although as she gets older my daughter is taking that on as well, which I’m very proud of.
Two surprises about yourself
I am a classically trained pianist and a piano teacher, giving lessons to kids and adults. I love languages, and while I’m certainly not fluent, I do speak French and can get around with sign language and Spanish.
I attended Alma College for my Bachelor’s Degree. I describe Alma as a Rollins, but smaller. It’s a private liberal arts college in Alma, Michigan. I made friends for life at Alma. It was a wonderful place to find my way, get a great education and grow up.
After Alma, I went into the news industry and then PR before getting my Master’s Degree. I received my Master’s Degree from the University of Southern California, Annenberg School for Communication. That was an unbelievable experience, attending classes at USC, in the middle of Los Angeles, with professors who were so crazy smart and insightful. I loved every minute of my graduate work and am proud to call myself a USC alum.
Booker T. Washington said: “I have learned that success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome while trying to succeed.” – I have always had this taped to my computer monitor at work, since my first real job. It becomes more and more true and impactful the older I get.
“A child fills a place in your heart that you never knew was empty” – not sure who said this, but it is so true and explains what motherhood means to me.
FEW’s value to you
When I attended my first FEW luncheon, thanks to my sponsor Cheryl Belfay, I felt that it was different from all other organizations that I had experienced. I think the female factor sets it apart. It’s a fantastic group of extraordinary women living everyday life and supporting one another. Women supporting women is something that unfortunately you don’t see enough of, and it’s so critical. I wouldn’t be where I am today or who I am in this moment without the strong women in my life, my grandmothers, my mother, my best friends, my colleagues, my daughter. FEW provides that opportunity to connect women with women, which can only lead to amazing things. I’m looking forward to connecting and building those personal relationships and learning from the women of FEW.